What are the origins of tarot?
The predecessors of the playing cards we use today first migrated to Europe from Islamic countries around the 14th century. The suits used on these early cards were coins, cups, swords, and sticks. These suits are still used in the tarot deck but were changed to hearts, diamonds, clubs, and spades by French cardmakers in the 15th century. The earliest deck of tarot cards was a hand-painted set created around 1440 for the Duke of Milan. They were used for a game similar to bridge and to create amusing poetry.
It wasn't until the 1700s that tarot cards became strongly connected to fortune telling or the occult. The writings of Antoine Court de Gebelin in 1781 were hugely influential on the image of the tarot deck. An amateur scholar, Gebelin suggested that the pictures on the tarot deck were related to occult Egyptian hieroglyphics. While the Rosetta Stone later proved him wrong, the idea stuck, and other occult writers and tarot-card artists expanded on Gebelin's Egyptian interpretation.
Tarot divination gained in popularity during the 19th century, probably spurred on by a growing interest in all types of spiritualism. The Waite-Smith tarot deck, created in 1909, is often considered the "standard" deck, although the symbols are more a product of the late Victorian age than the Italian Renaissance (much less ancient Egypt). These days, you can find a tarot deck in any style or theme conceivable. We'll leave the mystical interpretations up to you.
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